In yesterday’s excerpt from Mama’s book, she said, “Times were so hard for everyone. A man tried to steal a quart of milk off our front porch. Ruhl chased him so he set the milk down and ran.
There are two things that strike me about that event.
1. The man was stealing milk … not cigarettes or beer or cake … milk. That tells me he was definitely stealing to feed his children.
2. Even though the man must have been desperate for the milk, when he realized Daddy was chasing him, he didn’t destroy the glass bottle of milk by throwing it down so that if he couldn’t have it, Daddy couldn’t either … “he set it down”. That makes me think he was an otherwise good man who had just become desperate to feed his family.
Yes, the man was wrong to steal and I hope that was a one-time thing, brought on by the stress of trying to provide for a family in such hard times. But in future years when times got better, if that man told his children and grandchildren about how bad things were during the Depression, and that at one point he became so desperate he even tried to steal a bottle of milk, I hope he also mentioned that “he set the milk down”. That says alot about the character of the man.
Mama’s brother Uncle Gene was single and lived with his parents during the Depression, and he worked for a dairy, driving a milk truck to make home deliveries. (Almost everyone had their milk delivered to their door back then.) But Mama always said that Uncle Gene brought home hardly any money from that job during those hard times, because if a little kid or desperate parent came up to the truck and begged for some milk, he just couldn’t refuse them, so he gave alot of milk away and paid for it himself.
I don’t think Uncle Gene was probably unusual. There were no government safety nets … no programs to give people at least basic food needs … people truly had to depend on the kindness of others to survive if they couldn’t make it themselves. I’m sure the thought in the back of everyone’s mind was truly “there but for the grace of God, go I” . That would certainly bring out the charity in most people.